Abortion laws will not be ready until autumn

Abortion legislation is now unlikely to enter the Dáil before the summer because of ongoing court challenges to the referendum result.

It had been planned to introduce abortion legislation to the Dáil before the break in July but Health Minister Simon Harris has now said this is unlikely.

He said the Attorney General had advised him that he is legally prevented from bringing legislation before the Dáil until the court cases are concluded.

“I think it is likely that you are looking at an early autumn introduction of the legislation in the Oireachtas,” said Mr Harris

However, he believes parties and politicians would be open to coming back early from their summer holidays to legislate for terminations as soon as possible.

Mr Harris said he still “on track” to have abortion services in place from January 2019 after he met with opposition representatives yesterday.

“I am obviously very conscious of the fact that there are three legal challenges being taken to the people’s decision in the courts at the moment,” said Mr Harris.

That is not an issue within my control. All of the issues that are under my control are progressing very well. We will be ready to introduce the legislation as soon as we are legally able to.

It was expected that the Cabinet would consider the bill in mid-July and a Dáil debate would be held before the recess to allow the Health Committee to scrutinise it over the summer. 

There had been a suggestion that the Dáil could even sit for a week longer in July to allow this debate to take place.

Mr Harris said he would now be in favour of the Dáil returning a week early to allow legislation to get through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, Mr Harris is also looking at the introduction of “exclusion zones” around hospitals and other locations that will provide terminations after “vulgar images” were used by protesters outside Dublin’s Rotunda Maternity Hospital this week.

“I am determined that we are going to have to do something about this in terms of exclusion zones,” said Mr Harris.

“The idea that a maternity hospital in this country would find itself having to take to Twitter to issue guidance to women attending our maternity hospitals, to make them aware of the fact that there were people protesting with vulgar images outside one of our maternity hospital, should be a cause of grave concern for any decent person in this country, regardless of their view on the Eighth Amendment.”

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